Something happened this week that was unprecedented. It happened in Catholic Poland. I don’t like to make generalizations about things, especially cultural generalizations, but I will admit that the Polish people have an incredibly strong Catholic faith. It seems to be in their DNA. Catholicism runs deep in the people of Poland. Theirs is not just “cultural” Catholicism. Their Catholic faith is infused into every part of their lives. I admire that very much.
This week across and around Poland a wall was built. Not a wall of stone and concrete, but a wall of flesh and blood. All across the borders of Poland over a million Polish Catholics formed a human chain. And they were armed with weapons, weapons of prayer; for each of them carried rosary beads to be united in one, single prayer. All across the 2,000 miles of border with Russia, Ukraine, Germany and the Czech Republic, the Polish people prayed the rosary for the integrity of religious freedom for Poland. It was called “Rosary to the Borders.” The news tells us that the recitation of prayer and the rosary even extended beyond the land and into the sea. Fishing boats and sailboats continued the chain across the waterways. They were praying to shield their families and country from the de-Christianization of Europe. And they prayed in over 200 churches across the country, in airport chapels, hospitals, schools and even in Polish parishes abroad.
Their prayer was “save Poland and the world,” and the necessity for Europe to return to its Christian roots before it is too late. And the date they prayed was no coincidence. They united in a wall of prayer across Poland on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.
The date they did this was most certainly not arbitrary. All of this took place on the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, October 7. Why on that feast day you might ask? The answer is very interesting.
On October 7, 1571 Christianity was under siege by the Ottoman Turks. Pope Pius V had warned Europe that Christianity itself was perilously close to being eradicated from Europe by the Turks. Hundreds of thousands of European Christians were enslaved and put to death. It was the great Knights of Malta who assisted in the liberation of Europe’s oppressors. In 1571, the Christians battled an enormous fleet of Turks at the Battle of Lepanto. The battle lasted 4 hours where the Christians were greatly outnumbered. 40,000 died and thousands were wounded, but the integrity of Christian Europe was held intact. How could the Christians defeat those who wished to eradicate Christianity from all of Europe when they were so greatly outnumbered?
Pope Pius V had asked Catholics everywhere across Europe to say the rosary every day in defense of Religious Freedom for Christians in Europe. By all logic, the Christians should have lost the battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1507. What they had however, was an entire Christian continent gathered together praying the rosary for them. Immediately after, Pope Pius V declared October 7 as the Feast of “Mary Queen of the Most Holy Rosary.” We still celebrate the feast today to commemorate the defense of our Catholic religious freedom. That is why on October 7 over a million Polish faithful gathered arm-in-arm across Poland to remind the world of the battle that saved Western Civilization and Christendom itself.
– Fr. Gerard Gordon